‘Target-based’ approach damaging trade relations, lawyer says
By Gillian McKenzie
POLICE are “overstepping” their powers regarding visits to licensed premises and risk damaging relations with the trade, a licensing lawyer has claimed.
Janet Hood said some officers are going beyond the powers afforded to them under the 2005 licensing Act, carrying out multiple visits, demanding to inspect documents such as training records, and, in some cases, ordering the closure of premises in which such documents have not been produced.
Speaking at the Scottish Licensing Law & Practice (SLLP) conference in Glasgow last week, Hood said while police and licensing standards officers have specific powers of entry and inspection, “police powers are not blanket powers”.
“It is very questionable whether the police can require licensees, responsible persons or staff to produce documents and other articles unless they have proper cause,” she said.
“The police role is not that of an LSO in terms of the Act, and it is my view that it is overstepping the mark, unless the police have cause to believe a crime is being or has been committed, to make such requests.
“The duty in terms of the mandatory conditions is that the staff training records must be kept on the premises and must be produced to an LSO on request. There is no statutory requirement to produce the training record to the police and the police cannot just adopt these powers.
“Police cannot require compliance with this type of request and should not draw conclusions that the mandatory condition has been breached for failure to comply. They certainly have no right to shut or attempt to shut premises.”
Hood also criticised the number of times police are visiting some premises.
Highlighting one operator who she claimed received 17 visits in one day, Hood said such activity can have a detrimental effect on business and on the trade’s relationship with the police.
“It appears that, despite denials from senior members of Police Scotland, targets are being set,” she said.
“I have huge respect for the police but this target-based policing must be looked at.
“If there are issues with premises of course the police should go in but if the premises is running perfectly well what is the need for these multiple visits which give the impression to customers that something has gone seriously wrong?
“Surely Police Scotland can recognise that should they deal with licensees and their staff with courtesy and respect, better working relationships will develop to the benefit of the public, the trade and the police themselves.”
A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We are committed to keeping people safe in all the country’s licensed premises and work with licensees to achieve this aim. Police Scotland welcomes comments from licensees who have any specific concerns or feedback about how we do this.
“Our officers have a long-standing good relationship with the licensed trade and are committed to continuing this in the future.
“Officers are not set individual targets.”